Manvel residents will likely soon see an improvement in city road maintenance. For years a recurring grievance expressed by Manvel citizens has been the inadequate maintenance of city roads. The backlog of work will see relief soon as city council authorized the expenditure of $355,360 for the acquisition of a paver lay-down machine, a pneumatic roller, and a steel wheel roller. Formerly the city’s public works department has depended on Brazoria County to provide the necessary equipment and machinery to maintain its roads.
Public Works Director Jay White told council that he thinks “we should get into the pavement business ourselves.” He explained that in 2012 his department was “budgeted for five miles of roads. The county only paved about a mile and a half. In 2013 we had the same five miles of road budgeted and they were only able to do two. And this year, they were here the past couple of weeks and they only did a mile and a half. I’m not even sure they will be back before the fiscal year is out. So right now we are five miles in arrears on paving.” White went on to say that the county now wants to limit their contribution of the equipment to no more than two miles each year.
White says his staff does most all the ground work anyway and that his workers will be trained on the use of the machinery. “While my guys don’t actually run the machine, they are doing everything except for the actual running of the machine.” The county will continue to do the road rebuilding which is more intensive than the typical paving overlays that White’s crews normally do. White estimates that about 60% of city road maintenance entails just an overlay and not the grinding and tearing up that is required for rebuilding.
City Controller Phyllis Herbst explained to council where the money is coming from. She explained that beginning back in 2007, much of the road budget was not being spent. A policy was approved by a former city council that allowed whatever funds that were unspent to be rolled into a dedicated road fund that could only be used for that purpose. Additional funds have been added each year subsequent so that currently it holds about $370,000. Herbst claims the expenditure is justified as it is a road department expense.
A couple of members expressed some angst in how the city seems to find significant amounts of money that council is unaware of. Similar concerns were expressed when the city purchased the current city hall building and when the sand pit on CR 58 was acquired. Lew Shuffler wondered where in the budget numbers that he sees does it show that money. He recalled a suggested purchase in last year’s budget negotiations that would have provided some type of equipment for the road department but was told there was insufficient money available. City Controller Herbst explained the amount is shown on audit papers but is not shown on the regular financial reports provided to council members.
Adrian Gaspar elaborated on Shufflers point expressing the sentiment that “when he asked for something, oh we don’t have the money for that, but when somebody else comes out with a request, oh sure, here is the money, let’s do it. He was told we don’t have the money when in reality we did. And that is a problem that we the council need to solve.” Gaspar has encouraged council on two previous occasions to appoint a charter review commission to address some issues that allow this type of “miscommunication” to occur. Both times council decided to put off any charter review for a later date. Gaspar feels council should be better informed of the decisions made and the information passing through the city manager’s office.
Despite the questioning of the funds, council was unanimous in its approval of the purchase. Shuffler acknowledged that the equipment should “go a long way as we have heard a lot of people say that we don’t take care of our roads. If we can do two and a half times what we’ve been doing the last couple of years that will make an impact.”